The last Czech conscripts obliged to do military service before the army becomes fully professional next year have been called up, army sources said on Wednesday.
Conscription contains pretty much everything that there is to disdain in a government policy. It is oppressive, far more so than taxation, which takes a portion of what we earn from our labor; the draft takes all of our labor, and adds that the work is always unpleasant and frequently dangerous.
I suppose that the draft could be defended in a trains-run-on-time way if it actually worked, but professional armies are superior to drafted troops at the bloody work of warfare. The exceptions happen when a nation is in such peril-- as the combatants were in World War II and Israel is always-- that the mass of those forced into soldiering are proud to be there, and would have volunteered anyway.
As happens with many silly policy ideas, its defenders will attempt to side-step its manifest flaws by claiming that it actually has a very different goal than was initially claimed. Thus, many of those who wish for a revival of conscription in the United States argue that the draft promotes unity across social and economic lines. It's not an army, it's a bowling league!
Still another argument that one hears every now and then is that the draft improves democracy because all sectors of society have their sons at risk in a conflict, and, the reasoning goes, will be zealous in watching their leaders. The massive protests against the Vietnam War are invoked, with the implication that most students will only protest the shedding of blood when some it is likely to be their own.
The Vietnam War cost America more than 50,000 lives and lasted over a decade, years longer than any conflict this country has ever fought abroad. This is a democracy in action? It would have been better for all concerned if the three million Americans sent to Southeast Asia had the option of refusing to go. They simply would not have enlisted. Faced with the choice of abandoning our other militiary obligations through want of men, Washington would have had to negotiate a pullout much earlier, and likely with a great deal more honor, than they eventually did. We would have been out of Vietnam by 1966.
The Daily Czech has been both Czech and daily for one year today, even in Slovakia. Congratulations to Petr!
¶ 10:24 AM
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Sullivan's influences I'm trying to free myself of some of my bad habits. Smoking, for one. And Andrew Sullivan.
I tend to go off on rants about Andrew Sullivan. Everynow and then. I know that I should give it up, let the pros like SullyWatch deal with that miserable Beltway hack. But...he tasks me. Damned if I know why, but he, above any other pundit, offends me.
It's not his opinions. I'm basically a free-market, civil liberties type myself. Certainly there are enough Ann Coulters scurrying across op-ed pages and the blogosphere that I am able to ignore. I suppose Sullivan's influence and respectability have something to do with it; most of the wing-nuts are read only by other wing-nuts, and Sullivan's audience is larger and rather more diverse.
But I didn't know what it was, why this particular hack got so deeply under my skin. Then, tonight, while I was trying to avoid lighting up a cigarette, I went over to his site. Almost in an aside, he wrote: "I raised myself on Hayek and Orwell and Havel."
"Hayek, Orwell, and Havel"-- this took me aback. God knows the man invokes Orwell all the time, but seeing these three names together invoked as his influences-- the thinkers on whose lessons, Sullivan, with charactoristic ego, "raised myself"-- startles.
What I find admirable in the life and work of those men was their integrity. I gave up doctrinaire libertarianism and the cult of Austrian Economics when I was a freshman in college, but Friedrich Hayek had a number of good points to make, and, moreover, went wherever his logic and apprehension of the facts took him throughout his long career.
Orwell was the twentieth century's great critic of cant and the twisting of facts and language to suit the needs of ideology.
Havel, whatever his flaws as president, set an example of courage in his stubborn defiance of tyranny that I hope I never have the chance to emulate.
Diverse men, but they shared a capacity for critically evaluating positions, their own. Wrong at times, yes, but not hacks, and not willing to try desperate measures to sacrifice dead ideals.
Sullivan has, at times at least, a graceful style and a gift for rhetoric. But he is merely a hack, a propagandist, more interested in defending the positions that he has taken than in probing for flaws in his positions. When even he can't defend them anymore, he changes the subject, attacks motives, and obfuscates.
When the NY Times was embroiled in scandal, no one gave it more play than he did. Last week, when it came out that Times columnist David Brooks' reporting for TheAtlantic had something of the fantastic to it, Sullivan was silent. Would he have ignored a similar story about, say, Paul Krugman?
Sullivan on John Burns:
Is there any journalist one trusts more than John F. Burns to tell us what is going on in Iraq? Somehow, Burns is untainted with the cynicism and reflexive anti-Americanism of many of his journalistic peers, and yet is open to the nuances of a complicated and often surprising world.
Earlier this month, another source noted, but Sullivan didn't:
John Burns of the New York Times, an excellent journalist, but no crusader, called in to speak of “an air of unreality and illusion” encasing the Americans of the Coalition Provisional Authority, so that they “seem to be speaking from an unvarying script” sounding more and more out of touch with every passing day of Iraqi pain and chaos.
So much for nuance.
I could go on. But I think I'll go cop a smoke instead.
¶ 8:04 PM
Congrats! StickFinger, the blog of Alex Zucker, celebrated its first anniversary today. Well, last week, but he remembred it today.
Zucker, translated Jachym Topol's City Sister Silver from Czech. His blog's name is a reference to the vowel-less Czech tongue-twister, "Strc prst skrz krk"-- "stick your finger in your neck."
¶ 5:45 PM
"Usama Bin Laden Cologne Spray." I don't have any commentary or weak jokes or anything to go along with it. But let me just write that again, and maybe the feeling of dizziness will pass. "Usama Bin Laden Cologne Spray." No, didn't work.
AND here's a picture.
¶ 9:56 AM
Monday, March 29, 2004
Personally, I would confess to almost anything before I watched Stepmom again. The conversion of Dan Leach, 21, apparently as a result of viewing The Passion of the Christ, is the latest in a chain of revelations since the film's release in America a month ago. The Guardian AND
A Norwegian neo-Nazi has confessed to two bombings a decade ago after a pang of repentance triggered by watching U.S. director Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ".Reuters
¶ 10:32 AM
Al Hawza Hundreds of Iraqis have protested in Baghdad after a Shia newspaper was banned for allegedly inciting violence against the US-led coalition.
Angry crowds gathered at the offices of Al-Hawza Al-Natiqa weekly, which is produced by supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.
US troops earlier delivered a letter announcing a 60-day ban on the weekly.
The US blames Al-Hawza for inciting violence; the paper's supporters say the ban attacks freedom of expression.
A needed measure against a publication that incites terrorism, or a hypocritical attack on the most fundamental freedom? I'd never heard of the paper until I saw today's news announcing that it was banned, but there are a few things that I feel comfortable saying, even without knowing the specifics of the situation.
During the occupation of Germany after World War II, publications needed licenses to be able to print. The occupation authorites had the right to restrict those licenses, and to suspend them at any time, even years after the war. They weren't shy about using that power, and many German newspapers and magazines were forced to "suspend" publication, just like Al-Hawza.
It may also be argued that the situation in Iraq is far more perilous than was the occupation of Germany in the spring of 1946, and that our forces there need at least as much latitude in the ability to restrict free speech.
I haven't looked, but I'm sure some bright-eyed blogger has already posted that argument, or something very similar to it. It is an accurate analogy, but only up to a point, and I think misses a larger truth.
What was the justification for our occupation of Germany? We'd conquered it in a war, one begun by them. Having beaten Hitler, we had the right, the legal and moral right, to dispose of Germany as we pleased. Our goal had been to liberate Europe from the Germans, and liberating Germany from the Nazis, to the extent that was a goal at all, was a low priority.
Fortunately for Germany, and for ourselves, we rebuilt our vanquished enemy, and didn't implement the Morgenthau Plan, which called for Germany to be stripped of its industry and reduced to a basically agrarian state that could never again threaten anybody. But we could have done that if we'd wanted to.
[Actually, many neo-nazis, holocaust deniers, and German apologists claim that we did implement the Morgenthau Plan, but this is more revealing, I think, of the psychology of a type of fanatic than of the history of the time after the war.]
Having fought and won a war, it was the right of the victors to set the terms of the peace.
In Iraq, we made it clear, protested as loudly as we could, that we were not at war with Iraq, and certainly not with the Iraqi people; our enemy was Hussein.
He's in jail and his Ba'ath party outlawed; we have accomplished our goal, and it would seem, according to our stated reasons for going to war, that should leave as soon as the country is stable enough for us to do so. We can quibble over what "stable" means in the context of Iraq, but I don't see how we have the right to approve their government, or even what form it should take.
Still less do we have the right to tell a free people what they can read. That is a power assumed by conquerors, not by liberators.
Let me add that I don't favor an immediate pull out from Iraq, nor do I think that the US can be indifferent to whom we cede control when we do leave. I question only the validity of our stated reasons for going into Iraq, and whether they can be stretched to cover our current ambitious project of re-making Iraqi society.
Andrew Sullivan wrote a while back, before his most recent holiday, that:
When clever anti-war types insist there is not and never has been any connection between the fight for democracy in Iraq and the war against terror, they are thinking in terms of legalities and technicalities - not strategy. The only way to meaningfully defang Islamist terror is to transform the region. If we don't, we will simply be putting out small fires for ever, instead of dealing with root causes. The root cause is the lack of democracy in the region, which gives these religious fanatics the oxygen they need. Al Qaeda understand the stakes. So must we. Iraq is the battlefield.
Fascinating, 'no? The war was not to protect us from Saddam, or even to liberate Iraq from his monstrous rule. The war, according to Sullivan, was so Iraq could be made again in something like our image.
Is that not the essence of imperialism? And why should this experiment in hot-house democracy be popular in Iraq?
¶ 8:50 AM
Friday, March 26, 2004
Random thoughts on Clarke This was the week of Richard Clarke. His claims about the Bush administration's failure to deal with Al-Qaeda before 9/11, and their immediate use of that terrible day to justify the war with Iraq, have dominated op-ed pages, talk shows, and the internet. At the risk of hyperbole, this is what the Watergate hearings must have felt like.
Al Kamen's column in today's WaPo reports on an interesting detail about Clarke's book: the text was given to White House to be vetted for security reasons last November.
Clarke, bound by the usual pre-publication review agreement, shipped it to the National Security Council on Nov. 4 for a review that lasted at least a couple of months, the White House said.
Not once, apparently, did the NSC reviewers mention to the communications or political people that they had an election bomb on their hands.
Buzz is that the NSC types apparently felt it would have been inappropriate to do so. What? Once again the Bush White House stubbornly refuses to use the levers of power for political purposes? So maybe there is some legal, moral or ethical constraint. This is Washington, for crying out loud.
This is the idlest of speculation, but it may be the case that some of the "NSC types"-- career intelligence analysts who would have done the vetting-- share Clarke's views, and didn't warn their political masters of the book's contents because they wanted to blindside the Bushies.
The White House's public response has been desperate, even bizarre. Another Post story succinctly notes:
Administration officials were so intent on mobilizing every possible argument that some of their points seemed contradictory. Collectively, they said Clarke was responsible for counterterrorism but out of the loop, claimed he was obsessed with which meetings he could attend but refused to go to some meetings, and argued both that his book was published too soon and too late.
Clarke's detractors outside the administration have been even worse. Charles Krauthammer was reduced to hysteria in his op-ed column today, referring to Clarke as a "perjurer":
...he becomes not just a perjurer but a partisan perjurer. He savages Bush for not having made al Qaeda his top national security priority, but he refuses even to call a "mistake" Clinton's staggering dereliction in putting Yasser Arafat and Yugoslavia(!) above fighting al Qaeda.
This declaration-- can Krauthammer really mean it?-- has a certain irony to it when one considers Condoleeza Rice's noted reluctance to appear before the 9/11 Commission, particularly if it's true, as Josh Marshall argues, "it seems the hang-up may be that Rice or the White House don't want the testimony to be under oath."
To the extent that the Bush partisans have a coherent argument that goes beyond name-calling, it involves avoiding the substance of Clarke's criticisms. Bush himself used a campaign stop yesterday to contrast his eight months in office before 9/11 against Clinton's eight years. (Judging by a search of google news search of "eight-months eight-years" it's caught on.)
That's no answer. The point is not that the Bush White House should have done more about al-Qaeda before 9/11: of course they should have. Nor is the argument that the Clinton White House took adequate measures against bin Laden. Obviously, not nearly enough was done to deal with a serious threat to American security in that administration,either.
Rather, the point is that Bush took less action against al-Qaeda than Clinton did. His national security team was not as wary of the growing threat as Clinton's was. Even after the attack on the Cole should have removed any doubt about the danger al-Qaeda posed, and should have made clear that the danger was growing, the Bush team took the threat even less seriously than their predecessors did. Recall that the attack on the Cole happened on Clinton's watch, but so near the end of his time in office, October 2000, that the response would have to come from his successor.
The other criticism that Clarke made, though it is in danger of being forgotten, is what Bush did after 9/11: Iraq. This isn't that new: many sources have testified to the eagerness of leading Bush officials to link Hussein with al-Qaeda. The centerpiece of the "war on terror" was toppling Hussein. As glad as we all are to see an evil dictator overthrown, the resources we've committed to Iraq for God alone knows how long, can't be used to fight terrorism elsewhere.
What has been accomplished in the war on terror by our expedition in to Iraq? Not in terms of promoting democracy or liberating the Kurds or anything else, but in terms of the war on terror. What did Bush's policy bring about?
We stopped a state from giving weapons that it did not have to a terrorist organization that it did not support.
Surely, there must have been another way to stop Iraq from handing out WMD that it didn't have short of invasion. Could we not have tried to break the alliance that never existed between Iraq and al-Qaeda without going to war?
Clarke, as an expert in international terrorism, believes that our response to international terrorism should in some way negate international terrorism.
It's a tough point to argue against, which is why, one imagines, that as damaging as Clarke's testimony was to the already fragile credibility of the White House, Bush's partisans might prefer discussing their negligence before 9/11 to answering hard questions about their conduct of policy after 9/11.
¶ 2:22 PM
Thursday, March 25, 2004
"When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it," Humphrey Bogart to Peter Lorre in "The Maltese Falcon."
The man "made the off-hand comment, 'Hey everybody. It's Richard Simmons. Let's drop our bags and rock to the '50s,'" said Phoenix police Sgt. Tom Osborne. "Mr. Simmons took exception to it and walked over to the other passenger and apparently slapped him in the face."
Take a look at the bright side of an anti-Semitic snuff film After seeing the runaway success of The Passion of the Christ, film-makers behind the Life of Brian have decided to re-release the satirical Monty Python flick, it emerged today.
The 1979 movie about Brian of Nazareth, who is mistaken for the Messiah, will make a return to the big screen in America at the end of April in Los Angeles and New York.
¶ 1:38 PM
You've got to have goals Alex Zucker finds a revealing quote from a leading Senator:
Senator Trent Lott has made this statement in his interview to RIA "Novosti":
"Democracy is an evolutionary process. I would like to congratulate Mr. Putin and the delegates of the State Duma with their victory. I would like to learn how we could reach the same level of support for Republicans and President Bush for the elections in our country," said Lott.
¶ 1:05 PM
Monday, March 22, 2004
April 29 will be "Party for the President Day!" Whoopee! Attend a house party with Republicans!
May I suggest "Bar Crawl for Kerry" as a better way to spend the last Thursday in April?
¶ 1:04 PM
The wisdom of Condi I have nothing to say about Israel's assasination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas. I doubt anyone does.
Clearly, Hamas is at war with Israel, and it seems ludicrous that Israel shouldn't acknowledge this by fighting back.
Just as clearly, Israel's military actions have not made the occupation of Palestine more just, or less bloody. It is difficult to see another rocket attack as moving the ongoing tragedy any closer to a workable solution.
But I can say that the statement of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice captures, with the compression of a haiku, the blankness of our foreign policy:
"It is very important that everyone step back now and try now to be calm in the region. There is always a possibility of a better day in the Middle East," she said on NBC television.
This is why I only drink around beautiful women.
¶ 2:06 PM
Tak, would they be Sudeten Shepherds? For reasons that I don't comprehend, American newspapers love to run stories like this one whenever the local police department gets a new drug or bomb sniffing dog. People like to see pictures of dogs, I guess, or maybe editors think that they do.
Was surprised to discover that the beast-- a German shepherd named Atos-- recieved its early training in the Czech Republic, and it takes commands in Czech and English. Since the K-9 unit cost over $20 large to set up-- most of it to purchase and train the dog-- it seems a lucrative racket. There are a number of web-sites devoted to Czech bred dogs; perhaps it is a growing export.
What is definite is that I really should get back to work if I'm googling "Czech dogs."
¶ 12:25 PM
It's been twelve years, damn it.
With a view to tap the east Europe market better, Nasdaq-listed software major Infosys is planning to set up a centre in Czechoslovakia for both IT and business process outsourcing (BPO) operations.
"We are planning to set up a centre in Czechoslovakia, close to Prague, for both our software and BPO operations,” Kris Gopalakrishnan, COO and Deputy Managing Director, Infosys Technologies, told newspersons here on the sidelines of a CII summit. --from The Economic Times of India.
¶ 11:48 AM
Tollund Man Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.
Oddly, no mention of a bank account in Nigeria Dear George,
The political season has arrived. Finally, we know who my opponent will be. I recently called Senator Kerry to congratulate him on winning his party's nomination. I told him I'm looking forward to a spirited campaign.
This should be an interesting debate. Senator Kerry has spent two decades in Congress; he's built up quite a record. In fact, Senator Kerry has been in Washington long enough to take both sides on just about every issue. He's been for the Patriot Act and against it; for NAFTA and against it; for the No Child Left Behind Act and against it; for the use of force in Iraq and against funding the liberation of Iraq. My opponent clearly has strong beliefs -- they just don't last very long.
And the choice is clear. It's a choice between keeping the tax relief that is moving the economy forward, or stopping the recovery by putting the burden of higher taxes back on the American people.
It is a choice between an America that leads the world with strength and confidence or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger.
It's a choice that I will set squarely before the American people.
We've achieved great things. The last three years have brought serious challenges, and we have given serious answers. I look forward to telling the American people that.
Most importantly, we have a positive vision for winning the war against terror and for extending peace and freedom throughout our world; a positive vision for creating jobs and promoting opportunity and compassion here at home. We'll leave no doubt where we stand. And come November, we'll be reelected.
The stakes are high, and I need your help. Could you contribute and make a difference in what could be a close election?
Everything you send will help our TV buy -- on national cable and in 18 battleground states on local stations. The ads are strong. They remind people of this Administration's accomplishments, and will lay out our positive agenda and contrast it with John Kerry's wrong votes and out-of-the-mainstream philosophy.
The other side has several attack groups, funded by large unregulated "soft money" contributions from wealthy liberals, so I need your help today with a gift of $1,000, $500, $250, $100 or even $50 or $25 to keep ratcheting our TV effort up. Federal law allows gifts of up to $2,000 a person.
For all Americans, these years in our history will always stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of the leaders. This isn't one of those times. You and I are living a period where the stakes are high, the challenges are difficult, and the choices are clear -- a time when resolve is needed.
I hope you will help today. Thank you for your friendship and may God continue to bless America.
You can tell a review hit home when authors of forthcoming books fear you by name:
What it comes down to is this - who do you write for? I plan to be torn apart by Skurnick-ites all over when my book comes out, and I hope to God that's the case, because they only like the people who don't sell. Gives them a chance to mourn the underdeveloped brain of the average TV-infected reader. Also, I think it would make me nervous if snooty people, who have to knock down the works of successful people to feel better about themselves, liked me. Not that a nice review would break my heart, but a nice review from someone like Skurnick, who is a flagrant example of why one should not judge a book by its cover, would send me into fits.
He Can Make it Anywhere Congratulations to Baltimore CP alum Tom Scocca, now heading to New York.
¶ 8:08 AM
Spanish Elections: Shocked, shocked to find democracy going on
The Spanish public was always against the war in Iraq, and last week's despicable bombings in Madrid did not make them suddenly change their minds. I don't know why this should strike anyone as odd, but some of the leading members of the blogosphere can't wrap their minds around it. They seem almost more devastated by the election results than by the slaughter of the terrorist attacks.
Instapundit headlines his post on the elections "TERRORISTS HAVE SUCCEEDED IN TOPPLING THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT," and goes on to refer to the election as "a bad day for the forces of civilization."
Jeff Jarvis, Meryl Yourish, and Roger Simon say similar things, with Simon making a forced, not to say bizarre, analogy between bin Laden and Franco.
The winner of the "Andrew Sullivan Award for Grotesque Overstatement" is Andrew Sullivan, who terms the election results-- I repeat, election results-- "bin Laden's victory in Spain."
"It's a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe's future," he continues.
Sullivan then goes a little mad; he first attempts to explain how the attack last week justifies the war in Iraq that began a year ago. A few lines later, he explains that al-Qaeda's hatred of Spain has its genesis in the expulsion of the Moors in the 15th century. In between, he notes under his breath that the Spanish government's conduct in the last few days hasn't exactly inspired confidence in its ability to protect its people. But I'll leave a detailed analysis of Sullivan's breakdown to a qualified professional. I'm more concerned with the rather casual appreciation of the value of democracy these bloggers are showing.
Sullivan stresses that the issue in the war with al Qaeda is the struggle of freedom against tyranny. Surely, the right of a people to choose their government is one of the most important freedoms that must be defended. While we may disagree with the outcome of an election, democracy isn't about outcomes, it is about a process. The act of engaging in that process, as more Spanish voters than expected did this weekend, is a part of the struggle against tyranny, not a surrender to "Islamo-fascism."
It is striking that few if any of the right-wing bloggers so upset about Spain's election even mention the other European election yesterday, when more than 70% of Russian voters re-elected Vladimir Putin. Russia's ongoing fraud of a democracy should be far more troubling to lovers of liberty than the results from a single election in a vibrant democratic state.
Did the attacks shape the election results? Certainly. What of it?
Many Americans say they support Bush because of 9/11. Does that mean that the terrorists won?
If the Spanish people had suddenly decided that they really should have been in favor of the Iraq war, wouldn't that have been just as strong a proof of terrorism's ability to change the world?
I'll give the last word to Atrios, who summarized the reasoning of "right wing nuts":
The people of Spain voted out the party which failed to protect them from a terrorist attack, and this proves they aren't serious about fighting terrorism.
¶ 7:57 AM
Thursday, March 11, 2004
The Madrid bombings have left me speechless.
A Fistful of Euros, an invaluble blog that I haven't added to my blog-roll out of sheer laziness, is covering the shocking attacks in Spain. So is the better known Iberian Notes.
The latter blog reports that:
...what the killers did was simply get on a train, unobtrusively leave a pre-set backpack, and leave through another door before the train even left the station. This "rudimentary" technique, as they called it, worked perfectly, and it fits in with ETA capabilities now: three or four kids could have pulled this off, assuming the bombs were pre-manufactured for them in some ETA hideout ...
This is bizarre:
Susan Lindauer, 41, was arrested in her hometown of Takoma Park, Md., and was to appear in court later in the day in Baltimore, authorities in New York said.
She was accused of conspiring to act as a spy for the Iraqi Intelligence Service and with engaging in prohibited financial transactions involving the government of Iraq under now-deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
This is a spy? Maybe.
But I really want to see the evidence.
Wired News adds some details:
The expanded indictment charges that Lindauer made multiple visits to the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in New York and met with several members of the IIS from October 1999 through about March 2002. It charges that Lindauer received payments from the IIS for her expenses in return for her intelligence services.
It is also charged that Lindauer traveled to Baghdad in February or March 2002 and met with several IIS officers.
The indictment charges that Lindauer was paid more than $10,000 by the IIS and brought some of the money back to the United States. That action violates a law that bars transactions with a government that sponsors international terrorism.
It also charges that Lindauer delivered a letter last year to the home of a U.S. government official in which she said she had access to members of the Saddam Hussein regime. Prosecutors said the letter was an unsuccessful attempt to influence United States foreign policy.
The Smoking Gun has the indictment up.
AKA "symbol SUSAN"? Was Iraqi intel so inept, so desperate, that they gave money to a former congressional staffer who called herself "symbol SUSAN" in the hope that she would influence American foreign policy?
It appears so.
It didn't take long for right-wing bloggers to begin running with this. According to Glenn Reynolds, liberals and the media empires they control will claim that "since she worked for Democrats, well, it's just one of those crazy things that happen, of no particular significance in the greater scheme."
But Instapundit's sarcasm begs the question: just what is the significance of this arrest?
Assuming that she is guilty of anything, which one does not normally do in American law, how do the vague charges against her amount to anything that discredits her former employers? Does Reynolds mean to imply that any former employer of a spy is also a traitor or, at best, a dupe?
If that is what he means then let him say so in plain English. Let him call Ron Wyden, the Senator from Oregon whose office briefly employed Lindauer, a traitor. Let him at least have the guts to it in the open.
There is a word for this type of demagoguery: McCarthyism.
¶ 9:36 AM
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
"Saudi police officers will get training in airport protection in Prague under a security program between the Kingdom and the Czech Republic," according to the English-language Arab News.
While I am pleased as punch that the country that produced most of the 9/11 hijackers is upgrading airport security, is Prague really the right place to learn how to do it?
¶ 5:33 PM
It comes as no surprise that Saruman, the defender of the oppressed and a friend of Progress, is proclaimed a traitor, and his residence is destroyed by the fanatical retrograde fighters.
When he spreads socialism in the Land, he is caught and punished without trial by the Hobbits, who are supported and paid by Gondor, the Capitalist.
Uhhh, do you guys follow Czech politics? The headline in the IHT certainly attracted my attention:
"EU Ready to welcome a Team of Fresh Faces." Thomas Fuller went on to claim
They are younger and perhaps more experimental than their West European counterparts. They revolve in and out of power at a sometimes dizzying pace. They generally admire the United States. Fuller did allow:
There is, of course, no single definition that groups all of Eastern Europe's up-and-coming leaders.
But I was anxious to read how Vaclav Klaus represents a fresh face. Alas, Fuller doesn't try that. The only Czech he can cite is Stanislav Gross. But hey, at least it's an example. The story conspicuosly overlooks that one of the most glaring facts of Czech political life is the numbing repetition of the same leaders who just won't go away.
Gross is perhaps the exception that proves the rule.
I was rather amazed by this BBC story:
Behind the ancient walls of Prague Castle, the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, is quietly confident that joining the European Union will be good for inward investment.
President Klaus: Investors need political and economic stability
"I think the investors need political stability," President Klaus told the BBC.
"And the investors need economic stability, both in macro-economic terms and as regards the legal structure, legislation and so on."
Given Klaus' long history of attacking the EU for domestic political gain, you'd think that somebody would have thought to ask him a follow-up question or two. If you didn't know any better, you'd think that Klaus is a leader of the movement for European integration.
¶ 3:38 PM
"Mr. President, about those 'accomplishments'..." [Department of Homeland Security] is a bureaucratic Frankenstein, with clumsily stitched-together limbs and an inadequate, misfiring brain. No one says merging 170,000 employees from 22 different agencies should have been easy. But, even allowing for inevitable transition problems, DHS has been a disaster: underfunded, undermanned, disorganized, and unforgivably slow-moving.
And, yet, George W. Bush can't stop praising it.
¶ 3:13 PM
Refortifying the Czech Border For more than half a century the huge, unfinished network of bunkers and underground tunnels withstood the snowy winters, unseen except by the occasional cross-country skier or walker.
Now, however, there is activity everywhere as groups of enthusiasts, many of them young, repair and repaint the hundreds of forts that populate the valleys facing Germany and Austria.
¶ 2:03 PM
Fact checker needed ...Matt Welch, a blogger and journalist whose chops include being on the original masthead of The Prague Post, the legendary Nineties weekly...
Sullivan: And Putin has always been against us.
Suddenly, the real reason for Moscow's resistance to toppling Saddam Hussein seems clearer. And the Bush administration's coddling of Putin more baffling. I guess the damage Putin can still do is greater than the damage Russia has already done. Like Pakistan.
Andrew Sullivan, March 10, 2003 Bush has spent many hours cultivating world leaders. How do you explain, for example, his remarkable relationship with Tony Blair - an ideological and personal opposite? Or the hours and hours Bush spent bringing Vladimir Putin around on NATO expansion and the end of the ABM Treaty? Or the equally impressive relationship with Pakistan's Musharraf...
Sullivan, May, 2002 He [President Bush] is a pragmatist, a man who has made up his mind about foreign leaders by meeting them and sizing them up, and a man whose guiding principle in foreign policy has always been American national interest, as it should be.
Take relations with Russia. Some have argued that Bush has changed tack. But Bush singled out Vladimir Putin - or Pootie-Poot, as he calls him - very early in his presidency as a critical ally. Bush didn't shift from his focus on missile defense, but by engaging Putin directly, he was also able to get critical Russian help in Afghanistan, oil production, and intelligence.
Sullivan, December 2001 And so throughout this war, the neocon chorus has loudly wailed every time an alliance is invoked. The neoconservative response to the Bush-Putin summit, the most important and hopeful Russian-American meeting in many years, was skeptical...
So now Bush has been "coddling" Putin; before his strategy was "impressive" and the president's personal diplomacy with Putin was producing "important and hopeful" results.
My point here is not about Bush as a diplomat or Putin as Russian leader or American ally; rather it's about Sullivan's skills as an analyst.
Remember, these comments are from pieces Sullivan wrote for publication that I found in two seconds by googling his site. God knows how many contradictory statements about Putin you'll find in the "Daily Dish" if you want to go back through his archives week by week.
I did that once before with "Flypaper" and I'm not doing it again.
Why -- or how -- do people take this egotistical little gnat seriously?
¶ 11:58 AM
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Welch on Nader On election night 2000, I watched the famous consumer advocate say -- even while his own campaign staffers were openly agonizing over the prospect of a Nader-spoiled Republican victory -- "I'll tell you who's squirming now! There are a lot of people in the Democratic Party squirming now!..."
That's just the lede. It's the definitive take-down.
¶ 2:59 PM
More on Hagibor:
I posted earlier on the effort to raise money to provide care for Holocaust survivors in Prague. Alex Zucker (who's been blogging up a storm at Stickfinger) writes in that he edited the press release for the New York fundraiser, and sends this link, which y'all should check out.
We say "never again" and build memorials to those who perished, but we must not forget those who survived. Czech Holocaust survivors have now reached their difficult, final years and need our help.
¶ 9:34 AM
Andrew Sullivan has always been at war with Eastasia My own disillusionment with the president is not, despite appearances, all to do with marriage. I first worried with the aircraft carrier stunt, the post-war mess in Iraq, then the fiscal insouciance, and the more general bossiness that this unlibertarian president was exhibiting.
¶ 8:58 AM
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The first Bush/Cheney television ads are up for anyone with the stomach to download them.
All three ("Lead," "Tested," and "Safer and Stronger") are feel-goods touting Bush's version of Reagan's classic "It's Morning in America."
We know that Bush has raised an enormous amount of money for his re-election bid. As intimidating as the $200 million figure is, it's important to remember that Howard Dean had a $50 million war chest that his campaign managed to blow within a month of the Iowa caucuses.
Early ads cost money, but is there enough bang for the buck?
UPDATE: When I wrote above that "all three are feel-goods" I meant that the one that I saw, "Leadership", was a feel-good, and that I presumed that the other two were as well.
This supposition is not supported by the response the ads are getting.
AND THIS: Nicmoc has an angry response that you should read.
¶ 5:13 PM
Black like him?! "President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second."
John Kerry is many things, but not black. Or Irish.
Or able to keep his mouth shut when he thinks of a particularly pandering thing to say.
I can't believe they took the bait. Jason West [mayor of New Paltz, NY] was charged with [19 counts of] solemnizing marriages for couples who had no licenses, a misdemeanor under the domestic relations law, according to Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams.
Wonkette be bad:
...we're just glad this serial solemnizer has been stopped. Who knows how many couples he could have united in a lifelong pledge of commitment, or what kind of bridesmaids dresses they would have made friends buy? (Meanwhile, the guy who married my parents is walking around a free man.)
¶ 2:36 PM
A great-- or at least good-- day for freedom:
Communist China is changing its constitution to embrace the most basic tenet of capitalism, protecting private property rights for the first time since the 1949 revolution.
Perhaps it is a sign of just how far the world has moved forward since 1989 that this feels more like the formal ratification of the inevitable than something truly remarkable.
At least they'll be able to ask Klaus for any advice he might have on a stable transition to democratic capitalism.
Dutroux in Slovakia The gruesome case of Belgium child murderer and rapist Marc Dutroux finally made it to the courts this week. I hadn't followed the story at all, and only today discovered its Slovak angle when prosecutorsinformed the court that Dutroux admitted having kidnapped and raped girls on trips to Slovakia before completing the construction of the cells for his last six victims.
"(There is a seized) video cassette...on which the rape of a young girl is visible. Marc Dutroux admits the acts," [the prosecutor Michel Bourlet] said.
Evidently, this was covered in the Czech and Slovak press years ago, but I missed it.
That part of his biography isn't getting much coverage in the English language press. Dutroux's visits to Slovakia were mentioned in this 2001 piece in the Slovak Spectator and CNN reported in 1996:
Dutroux admitted he abducted An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, and the search for them has been extended to other countries because Dutroux paid frequent visits to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Police said a Belgian police officer visited Bratislava to talk with Slovakian detectives about An and Eefje and other disappearances. He also planned to go to Prague.
There is also this chilling passage on the web, lifted from an unidentified newspaper report:
In Slovakia, Dutroux introduced himself as a businessman dealing in tires. The peaceful atmosphere of Topolcany, a small town in western Slovakia, has been shattered. Locals talk of a Belgian pedophile who frequently visited Topolcany and made numerous acquaintances among young girls and children. He was a warmly welcomed guest in all homes.
Dutroux had been visiting the town since 1994, last staying there on Aug. 2, a few days before his arrest. According to 18-year-old Gabriela, who first met the Belgian while still underage, Dutroux was an amiable, funny and polite man. During visits to Topolcany, he always took her to a disco. "Most young girls-13- and 14-year-olds-were crazy about him. He would dance with them until they were completely exhausted," Gabriela told the Mlada Fronta Dnes Czech daily.
The mother of one of Dutroux's young female friends admitted that she wouldn't have objected to sending her underage daughter off to Belgium. "I know that my daughter didn't take part in pornographic films. I took her to a gynecologist who said she was still a virgin," she said.
Dutroux's friend, Michael Lelievre, left a son, three-month-old Michel, in Topolcany. The child's mother, Vanda D., claimed Lelievre was mad with joy when their son was born. She also remembered Dutroux's peculiar attitude toward children. "He made passes at my younger sister and when she tried to protect herself, he hit her. He apologized later, explaining it was just a joke."
Friends of Dutroux realized his strange behavior after watching TV news reports. The head of Slovakia's Interpol branch, Rudolf Gajdos, suspects Dutroux had ambitious plans for underage Slovakian girls. "He made friendships with ease and won many people's trust," says Gajdos. Blesk and, especially, MFD seem to be giving it the most play in the Czech press.
¶ 2:02 PM
"an ally but a very disturbing ally" A fascinating piece by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker makes clear that there really was a rogue state exporting WMD to the rest of the world: Pakistan.
"Iraq is laughable in comparison with this issue. The Bush Administration was hunting the shadows instead of the prey."
The story also details, though Pakistan is denying this, that the US agreed to let the Musharaf government handle the issue themselves in exchange for permission to hunt Osama bin Laden inside their borders.
A former senior intelligence official said to me, “Musharraf told us, ‘We’ve got guys inside. The people who provide fresh fruits and vegetables and herd the goats’” for bin Laden and his Al Qaeda followers. “It’s a quid pro quo: we’re going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan.”
Hersh reports that US roops are getting ready for a major show in the next few months:
The spring offensive could diminish the tempo of American operations in Iraq. “It’s going to be a full-court press,” one Pentagon planner said. Some of the most highly skilled Special Forces units, such as Task Force 121, will be shifted from Iraq to Pakistan. Special Forces personnel around the world have been briefed on their new assignments, one military adviser told me, and in some cases have been given “warning orders”—the stage before being sent into combat.
A large-scale American military presence in Pakistan could also create an uproar in the country and weaken Musharraf’s already tenuous hold on power. The operation represents a tremendous gamble for him personally (he narrowly survived two assassination attempts in December) and, by extension, for the Bush Administration—if he fell, his successor might be far less friendly to the United States. One of Musharraf’s most vocal critics inside Pakistan is retired Army Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, a fundamentalist Muslim who directed the I.S.I. from 1987 to 1989, at the height of the Afghan war with the Soviets. If American troops start operating from Pakistan, there will be “a rupture in the relationship,” Gul told me. “Americans think others are slaves to them.” Referring to the furor over A. Q. Khan, he added, “We may be in a jam, but we are a very honorable nation. We will not allow the American troops to come here. This will be the breaking point.” If Musharraf has made an agreement about letting American troops operate in Pakistan, Gul said, “he’s lying to you.”
It should be noted that Task Force 121 was in Afghanistan looking for bin Laden-- until it got pulled to look for Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
The capture of bin Laden has been discussed a lot in the press in the last several weeks. It has been said that we have a fairly good idea of where he is. Hersh writes:
“We’ve got to get Osama bin Laden, and we know where he is,” the former senior intelligence official said. Osama bin Laden is “communicating through sigint”—talking on satellite telephones and the like—“and his wings have been clipped. He’s in his own Alamo in northern Pakistan. It’s a natural progress—whittling down alternative locations and then targeting him. This is not, in theory, a ‘Let’s go and hope’ kind of thing. They’ve seen what they think is him.” But the former official added that there were reasons to be cautious about such reports, especially given that bin Laden hasn’t been seen for so long. Bin Laden would stand out because of his height; he is six feet five. But the target area is adjacent to Swat Valley, which is populated by a tribe of exceptionally tall people.
Two former C.I.A. operatives with firsthand knowledge of the PakistanAfghanistan border areas said that the American assault, if it did take place, would confront enormous logistical problems. “It’s impenetrable,” said Robert Baer, who visited the Hindu Kush area in the early nineties, before he was assigned to lead the C.I.A.’s anti-Saddam operations in northern Iraq. “There are no roads, and you can’t get armor up there. This is where Alexander the Great lost an entire division. The Russians didn’t even bother to go up there. Everybody’s got a gun. That area is worse than Iraq.” Milton Bearden, who ran the C.I.A.’s operations in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union, recounted, “I’ve been all through there. The Pashtun population in that belt has lived there longer than almost any other ethnic group has lived anywhere on earth.” He said, “Our intelligence has got to be better than it’s been. Anytime we go into something driven entirely by electoral politics, it doesn’t work out.”
There is precious little information on Osama's exact whereabouts. Although it's reasonable to think that he's hiding among sympathizers somewhere along the unruly Pakistan-Afghan border, he hasn't been heard from directly (except on videotape) since spring 2002. He's been using couriers to communicate with disciples ever since. We could nail this guy with a local's loose-lipped tip or a cell-phone slip, and it may happen yet.
We're talking really rough territory. The Pakistan-Afghan border, from Baluchistan in the south to the North-West Frontier Province in the north, runs about 1,500 miles and is pretty inhospitable to searches. The northern and western borders include some of the world's highest peaks, including the famed K2 (28,250 ft). This terrain can make hiding a cinch and military operations a real challenge. Osama may be nowhere near the border. No al Qaeda bigwig has been captured in the countryside. They've all been arrested in large cities: Abu Zubaida in Faisalabad (central Pakistan), Ramzi bin Alshibh in Karachi (southern, coastal Pakistan) and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi (northern Pakistan).
Czech/Moravian/Sudeten/Jew/Brahmin John Kerry's ethnic identity isn't particularly muddled for an American. Slate explains:
As for whether John Kerry qualifies as a Brahmin, the answer is yes and no. On the yes side, consider that his middle name is Forbes. In fact, Kerry's mother was related to at least two traditional Brahmin families, the Forbeses and the Winthrops. Yet Kerry himself is a practicing Catholic, and many in Massachusetts long assumed Kerry was an Irish name. However, the senator says he learned from a Boston Globe investigation last year that his paternal grandfather was actually born Jewish in what's now the Czech Republic. Before emigrating to America in 1905, Fritz Kohn changed his name to Frederick Kerry. He also apparently converted to Catholicism.
But back to Kerry and to Czech history. Since the story of his Czech roots came out in late January, he has been claimed as both a Jew and as a SudetenGerman.
It is something of the practice of the Sudeten Germans to claim Czech Jews from German areas of Czechoslovakia as their own. After the post-war expulsions-- a brutal process, especially in its first part, the so-called divoky odsun-- the Sudeten refugees attempted to rebuild their lives, agitate for political influence, and bear witness to their losses. They were not content with the measure of victimhood that history had given them.
Nobody has-- and likely nobody ever will have-- any very specific idea how many ethnic Germans were killed in the war's last days and in the reprisals that followed. It is impossible to say how many were killed in the war before the liberation; given the passage of twenty years between Czechoslovakia's last full census in 1930 and the first full German census after the war, there is no way to say just how many Sudetens there should have been, much less where they were.
Expellee groups would claim-- with the support of the German government I should add-- that some 200,000 were killed. The absurdity of the estimate hasn't kept expellee groups and and uncritical historians from repeating it, nor has the fact that Radomir Luza comprehensively debunked the number forty years ago.
Of the math games that the Sudetens used in estimating the number of "missing" Germans-- like assuming increases in child-births and a decrease in mortality during the war itself-- one was quite reprehensible. The demographers counted large parts of the Czech Jewish population as "German". This would be controversial, but not particularly illogical or objectionable, in a discussion of language or ethnic identity; in an attempt to determine the number of the innocent dead and the responsibility for their murders, it is risible.
It is possible that had Fritz Kohn not immigrated, he would have been claimed as a Sudeten German long before his grandson ran for president.
Thousands of Jews murdered by the Nazis were counted as German victims of Czech ethnic cleansing. The irony is even greater when one notes the close association between Holocaust denial and the tendency to exaggerate German suffering during World War II; that exaggeration is even something of a strategy of Holocaust deniers.
This weekend it became public knowledge that Kerry lost relatives in the Holocaust:
Kerry, 60, has known for about 16 years that his paternal grandmother was born Jewish as Ida Lowe and converted to Catholicism.
Sunday, the Vienna genealogist, Felix Gundacker, posted new findings on his Web site that the Nazis killed two of Ida Lowe's siblings -- a sister in the Treblinka concentration camp, and a brother in Theresienstadt, a Czechoslovakian ghetto that held Jews before they were taken to camps.
"I'm very touched by the knowledge that one of my relatives was in the Holocaust," Kerry said in an interview last night. "It gives an even greater personal sense of connection [to the Holocaust] that is very real and very touching. It makes you wonder how horrible their lives must have been."
This reminds me of a Czech joke my father told me that is more sad than funny:
A man named Kohn petitions the court to change his name to "Kavan".
When the judge asks him why, he says that when anti-Semites ask him what his name is, he wants to be able to give a proper Czech name so they won't beat him.
His request is granted by the judge.
Two weeks later, he comes back to the court, again asking to legally change his name, this time to "Cerny".
"You were just here," the judge says. "Why do you want to change your name again?"
"So that when they ask me my name, I'll be able to say 'Cerny'. And when they ask me what my name was before I changed it..."
¶ 2:38 AM
Monday, March 01, 2004
"Prague looks westward to fund
a new senior home for survivors" In the coming weeks, the chairman of Prague’s Jewish community, Tomas Jelinek, will be in New York to launch a campaign to raise money for the Hagibor Senior Center, designed for the growing number of Czech survivors in need of high-quality, specialized care.
Hagibor, which is being built by a coalition of Jewish groups and Holocaust-survivor organizations, will replace a smaller facility in Prague that can no longer cope with the growing number of survivors in need of assisted-living care.
“The survivors are getting older, their health is deteriorating and their need is great,” Jelinek said. “Perhaps 50 percent of current survivors will need our assistance, as they do not have any family to support them either because of the Holocaust or because their families left during the time of communism.”
The plan for the new facility — slated for completion in 2006 — has been several years in the making. It is being supported by the Terezin Initiative, an umbrella organization for Czech Holocaust survivors; the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; and the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities.
¶ 6:37 PM
This could never happen in Bohemia:
The District Attorney has issued a fine to Nordmøre and Romsdal police district after a Christmas party at Molde police station where the police drank lost property beer. The reason why the District Attorney fined the police district NOK 20,000 (USD 2,300) was allegedly that the beer consumed at the party had been turned over to the police as lost property. Two police officers have also been fined, reports the paper Tidens Krav.
The two police officers fined in this case, a superior officer and one officer, collected the beer, allegedly a total of 48 cans of beer which had been located outdoors and handed over to the police as lost property.
What kind of person finds a couple of cases of beer, and decides to take it to the police?
How is this posssible?
¶ 9:16 AM
"True World" to neni pravda. "You shameless bastards!"I yelled at the television. "Bastards."
My girlfriend asked me why I was yelling at a beer commercial.
Take a look for yourself at the Budweiser ad "True World".
[Their site won't allow me to link to it directly; you'll have to go to the "Entertainment" section and to their TV ads]
Pretty standard beer commercial- attractive young people drinking beer in a variety of settings, which is meant, I guess, to show how popular Bud is around the world.
Very standard-- except it opens on Stare Mesto Namesti in Prague.
People drinking Budweiser in Czechia.
It is bad enough that they appropriated the name-- which should probably be treated as an appellation-- from the Czechs. It is even worse that they do everything they can to stop Budvar from expanding, even preventing it from being sold under its proper name in this country. But when they state that in the Czech lands people actually drink their St. Louis piss-water, then they have gone too far.
It is an insult that is not to be borne.
¶ 7:13 AM
Watched the Oscars last night. Or this morning, or whenever the damn thing ended. A good show, some laughs. Would have been more laughs if Bill had won for Lost in Translation, but you can't have everything.
Annie Lennox's voice is shot; she sounded like a parody of a German cabaret singer. Or, worse, an actual German cabaret singer. She actually won for best song.
The tribute to film makers who have died since the last Academy Awards is reliably moving, even though you don't recognize most of their names. But what brainiac decided to include Leni Riefenstahl?
The purpose of a memorial is to recognize the lives of those whom you are sorry to have lost, not people whom you'd wanted dead.
As they aired the montage of still shots of the recently deceased, there was the polite, rote applause of an audience that couldn't remember who most of these people were.
The clapping would get louder when it was a name they actually recognized. When Riefenstahl's name and picture came on the screen, the applause started to surge-- "oh yeah, I think I know..."-- and then died away in an instant, as though they realized at the same time why they remembred the name-- "...HER, the Nazi!".